For any grandparent whose grandchild lives in another state or even another country, the joys of grandparenting are often combined with the frustration of not being a regular presence in a loved ones’ life. Being unable to see that first haircut or read a favorite fairy tale are just a few of the lost moments that can be remedied only by face-to-face contact. But modern technology has a solution that allows such contact even when a loved one is thousands of miles away: video chatting. While grandparents may be one of the last “niche” groups to adopt this technology, this solution is making a huge difference in the lives of many.
In a recent article in the Mercury News, “Visiting with Grandparents On-Screen,” Richard Scheinin describes the experiences of himself and other grandparents in maintaining communication with distant grandkids through video calling. Scheinin is one of approximately 40% of grandparents whose grandchildren live outside of easy commuting distance. For relatives in this growing scenario, video chats enable them to maintain and enhance regular communications.
Skype and FaceTime are two of the most popular online applications that facilitate video chats. While FaceTime works only between Apple devices, Skype and a host of less well-known applications cater to any users with an internet connection.
For Scheinin, the solution to seeing his two-year-old grandson, Zev, was to plan regular video chats via FaceTime between his home in Santa Cruz and Maui. Zev has taken to these calls so enthusiastically that they chat up to three times each week.
For others, the transition to video chatting has been less automatic, due to everything from technological ignorance or aversion to poor attention spands with younger children. To assist older and younger generations in coming together online, there is plenty of internet advice to be had. A particularly good source is the article, “Using Skype to Connect with Grandchildren of All Ages,” which offers a link to a video chatting instructional video and a tutorial on how to set up Skype. It offers tips on engaging grandchildren online at all ages: infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged, tweens, teens, and young adults.
Skype was introduced by Scandinavian develops in 2003 and quickly moved past early adopters to the general population. Today, approximately 12% of grandparents video chat with their grandchildren, and the percentage is rapidly growing, according to a MetLife Mature Market Institute report.
The most obvious benefit of intergenerational video calling is improved communication. Grandparents can read bedtime stories, inspect that first haircut, or watch a demonstration of walking or reciting of ABCs. As one grandparent summarized, “I don’t want to be this anonymous person who pops into [my granddaughter’s] life every four or five months with the occasional visit. I don’t want to be Anony-Gram.”
But the benefits can be even broader, as there is evidence that close grandparenting improves the quality of life for older adults. In the words of one aging expert, AARP’s Amy Groyer, “It’s an incredible supplement to in-person interactions. All the data shows that grandparents are motivated by grandkids – motivated to take care of themselves, to eat better, to be more active. And they’re also motivated to stay more current with technology and social media.”
As in-home care providers, we at Homecare California have seen and long promoted the benefits of video chatting for long distance family caregivers. Encouraging older or disabled clients to utilize video chat technology can provide new outlets in their communication with the larger world outside the home.
Photo credit: Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group